Indie Insights: Sexy Funny 'Happy, Happy,' Romantic and 'Restless,' Kevin Hart Banks on Laughter

Indie Insights: Sexy Funny 'Happy, Happy,' Romantic and 'Restless,' Kevin Hart Banks on Laughter

Sep 14, 2011

Norwegian neighbors get cozy, romantic relationships are examined, and a stand-up comedian enjoys a standout weekend, all in this week's column.

Pick of the Week
Happy, Happy
Bearing in mind that I haven't seen any of the films opening in limited release this weekend, my pick is Happy, Happy, a film about life, love, romance, and sex involving two neighboring couples in Norway. I have three reasons for my pick:
1. Country of Origin: Norway, which means it's likely to be shot through with wry, delightful humor that punctures any sense of self-importance. As a point of interest, it's also Norway's official submission for the Foreign Language Academy Award. 
2. Critical Response: Very good. Stephen Saito wrote at IFC: "Even without the unexpected jolts of the brightly-attired men's chorus that pops up periodically, Happy, Happy shines when its lead Agnes Kittelsen is on screen." After seeing it at Sundance, Amanda May Meyncke suggested at that it "may be one of the nicest and sweetest films about infidelity ever made."
3. The Trailer: Excellent. It conveys a sense of fun, yet also a degree of thoughtfulness. Watch it below and judge for yourself. 


Also Opening This Weekend
RestlessGus Van Sant's Restless revolves around the relationship between Henry Hopper as an "eccentric funeral crasher" and Mia Wasikowska as a secretive young woman. It sounds a touch like Harvey, the classic starring James Stewart, because the funeral crasher's only friend is "an outspoken ghost named Hiroshi." With Van Sant at the helm, however, and a play by Jason Lew serving as the source material, Restless should march to the beat of its own drummer. (See also Fred Topel's interview with Van Sant at TIFF, and Erik Davis' roundup of the buzz when it premiered at Cannes.)
A more adult romance is the subject of Tom Tykwer's Three (AKA Drei). As with Happy, Happy, a married couple is tempted by infidelity, but this time both husband and wife are attracted to the same person. Sophie Rois, Devid Sriesow, and Sebastian Schipper star. 
The great Gérard Depardieu is the featured attraction of the comedy/drama My Afternoons With Margueritte. Depardieu plays "a village idiot" who happens to share a park bench with a writer in her 90s (Gisèle Casadesus). She loves to read from her novel to anyone who passes by, and the illiterate Depardiu finds that his "inner intellectual" awakens as they spend more time together. Jean Becker directed. 
Shut Up, Little Man! An Audio Misadventure is a documentary created by Matthew Bate from audio tapes recorded by two young men in the late 80s. Recent arrivals from the Midwest, the two friends became fascinated with their next-door neighbors, two men whose "verbal battles bled through the walls" of the apartment building, and began recording what they heard. Once they began passing cassette tapes of the recordings to their friends, and their friends passed it on to their friends, things spiraled out of control. 
Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace examines the 1979 Camp David Peace Accord and Treaty between Egypt and Israel. The documentary, directed by Harry Hunkele, mixes new interviews and archival footage, featuring President Jimmy Carter, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Henry Kissinger, and many more. 
Clicking any of the title links above will take you to more information about the movie, theater location, and more.
Last Weekend's Indie Box Office
Kevin Hart: Laugh at My PainLet's rewind a few days and see what really caught on. Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain was the big hit, according to Box Office Mojo. As I detailed last week, the film documents Hart's wildly successful cross-country tour earlier this year, and features footage from a visit to his hometown of Philadelphia. Hart clearly has many loyal fans, who supported the opening weekend to the tune of $19,474 per screen, at 98 theaters in 25 markets, for a total of nearly $2 million. That instantly vaults it to #9 on the list of top-grossing comedy concert movies
"Those are pretty stunning numbers," writes Peter Kneght at indieWIRE. He reports: "The film was produced for only $750,000 by Jeff Clanagan, chief executive of noted independent production company Codeblack Entertainment, which distributed the movie domestically in AMC Theaters." The release will expand to 58 additional theaters next weekend. 
Formed in 2005, Codeblack Entertainment describes itself as "the first independent, vertically integrated African American-owned film studio," and says that they are focused on provided a "consistent stream of sophisticated urban themed programming that is distributed across theatrical, digital, broadcast and internet based platforms." In the past, Codeblack distributed titles such as Shadowboxer, the directorial debut of Lee Daniels, and Don't Trip, I'm Preaching to the Choir, a stand-up comedy film by Steve Harvey.
While the success of Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain is, indeed, stunning, it will be interesting to see where things progress from here, both for the company and the comedian. Codeblack didn't come out of the blue; it looks like they've kept their release plans modest, with a limited number of releases, which should ensure continued success. 
Hart's recently appeared on MTV's Video Music Awards, which may have raised awareness, but he admitted to Entertainment Weekly that he was "taken aback by the support of my fans." As for the future? "Instead of enjoying today, I’m thinking about two years later. I’m trying to become a mogul and this is the first step in doing that."

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